Mesothelioma is a debilitating disease of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos.  There is no known cure for the disease, although many patients seek radiation and chemotherapy treatment. The symptoms of mesothelioma can be complicated and often result in additional, secondary symptoms. One of these is a collection of fluid in the space between lung tissues, the pleura. When fluids build up in this space, it causes great discomfort. Often patients have difficulty breathing. Even performing routine, daily tasks can become impossible for individuals with pleural buildup. To alleviate the discomfort, the patient’s physician may recommend a pleurocentesis.

The Procedure

A pleurocentesis, also called a thoracentesis, is routinely performed in an outpatient setting. The procedure is a fairly simple surgery that drains the extra fluid in the lungs. Most patients tolerate the procedure well. Before the pleurocentesis is performed, however, the patient must undergo a CT scan or other type of radiology imaging test. The test allows the physician to see how much fluid is present in the lungs and exactly where the buildup is located. The patient is typically sitting in an upright position while the pleurocentesis is performed. First, an area between the ribs is chosen as the injection site. Then the area is thoroughly cleaned and subsequently anesthetized by a physician. Once the area is numb, a long needle is inserted through the chest cavity and into the lung. The needle draws out the extra fluid in the pleura. The patient feels little discomfort, other than pressure, during the procedure. When the physician is through, the injection area is wiped clean and covered with gauze.


A pleurocentesis is a quick procedure, typically taking only about 30 minutes once the CT scan is complete. Most patients go directly home, while others might stay for a short observation. The risks associated with having a pleurocentesis are low, with the most common side effects being bleeding or infection. There might also be mild pain at the injection site. Only in rare instances does the patient develop a collapsed lung, which is also known as a pneumothorax. Most patients who undergo a pleurocentesis return home the same day and rest for the next 24 hours.